Disney is under fire this week for “butchering” their most feminist role model yet, Brave star Merida. Now instead of a tomboy, she’s more traditionally beautiful and that’s bad according to the 50,000 people who signed a petition about the change. Look, I get the controversy over the Brave princess makeover, but I’ll just be honest with you. I couldn’t bolt my girls down to the couch to watch this movie. They thought Brave was scary and my girls had zero interest in Merida, nay for the sparkly dress-up costume I bought them on sale after Halloween – which happens to be the dress Merida detests in the movie (a fact I learned from reading articles because I could not get anyone in my house to actually finish the film.)
I pleaded with my daughters. I made a case. “Look! Merida is so brave! She’s so cool! She’s a self-helper who follows her dreams and doesn’t take any crap!” As a matter of fact, besides my nostalgic love for The Little Mermaid, this is the only Disney princess movie I’ve ever pushed. I don’t encourage princesses per se. They get that by osmosis in the world we live in. I’ve never pushed the color pink or toys made for pretend housekeeping or glittery words scrawled on anything. I’m a feminist mom. Sure, I’m staying home a few years, but damnit, I vote and try to lead by example that women have options and opinions and value. SO PLEASE, kids, what about Brave? Look how cool Merida is!
The truth is, it’s pretty princesses that sell to little girls. Pre-makeover Merida, with her dark clothes and wonky face is not “beautiful” in the traditional sense. She isn’t capturing wide audiences, hence her new curl-enhancing hair products, slimmer waist and fuller lashes. (Lord, I wish I had that new hair! MEOW!) It’s a fact. Disney is a business. Right or wrong, the Merida makeover will bring profits.
In a perfect world, maybe there wouldn’t be any Disney princesses. Self-rescuing tomboys would be embraced right along side people of all stripes. But the truth is, Belle, Ariel and Tiana are already out there and they’re gorgeous. (My kids insist we’re naming at least one of the new twins Jasmine.) Merida didn’t join their ranks not because parents don’t want a feminist icon. Merida failed because she’s boring to the majority of kids. Majority wins when it comes to the marketing of an effective product. I don’t love it, you don’t love it, but it is what it is.
Maybe instead of putting a square peg into a round hole and pushing Disney to make less glamorous characters (because really, that’s like asking Abercrombie to make “fat” clothes) maybe people with a problem with the new Merida should just boycott the movies. Despite my joke about having McDonald’s once a year on Mother’s Day, my kids have never had a McDonald’s french fry. They’ve literally never experienced a Happy Meal. I don’t rage into the wind and make petitions for McDonald’s to quit putting beef lard into their fries and stop filling their kids’ meals with landfill junk. I pack sandwiches that I make at home.
Moms, we vote with our money. If you don’t like sexxy Merida, don’t buy Brave.
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